2006 INDY PRO SERIES FREEDOM 100 TOP THREE PRESS CONFERENCE Wade Cunningham, Jay Howard, Jaime Camara, Brian Stewart Friday, May 26, 2006, Indianapolis Motor Speedway MODERATOR: Second and third in the Freedom 100 join us, of course. Jaime has...
2006 INDY PRO SERIES FREEDOM 100 TOP THREE PRESS CONFERENCE
Wade Cunningham, Jay Howard, Jaime Camara, Brian Stewart
Friday, May 26, 2006, Indianapolis Motor Speedway
MODERATOR: Second and third in the Freedom 100 join us, of course. Jaime has won this event, the Freedom 100, is no stranger to Victory Lane. Of course, Jay comes to us as, quote, a rookie in this series and obviously put on a whale of a show.
Tell you what, gentlemen, I'm sure the press have a lot of interesting questions. A pretty thrilling event today. We have had some events that have had a fair amount of attrition, Jaime, and this one was pretty clean throughout. Talk about trying to run down those top two guys.
JAIME CAMARA: It was tough because I couldn't figure out the setup for my car, and I couldn't stay really close to Jay on the apex. I had to lift a lot when I was close to him, and I couldn't -- I didn't have the speed to be right with them. But for third place, it was a great car. I mean, I didn't have any big issues on the race, just small stuff that were upsetting the car. It was keeping me from being with them on the front.
MODERATOR: Jaime, there are good third-place finishes and third places where a driver is unhappy. I take from your remarks that this is a third place that if you could be comfortable with, it's --
CAMARA: Of course, I'm not happy. I'll take it, but I'm not happy. (Laughter) I'm the kind of driver, and I think Jay is the same, we arrive on a track, the only thing we want is winning. It doesn't matter where you finish the race, but winning is our goal. But third place, I mean it's not a bad result, but it's not what I wanted, for sure.
MODERATOR: We sometimes, Jay, look at these Indy Pro Series cars and people forget often wherever we go across the country, they're the second-fastest race car that a race fan will ever see on the oval. You guys put on a whale of a show today, obviously. The fans were on their feet, and that's good for the series. These are momentum cars, as well, and the minute you have to get out of if just a second, you've got some situations to deal with. Obviously, we want to know about those thrilling last couple of laps. You were reeling Wade in, looked like you had him, and it was a great, great, memorable wheel-to-wheel battle.
JAY HOWARD: Yeah, I definitely -- my game plan almost worked. Yeah, the idea was to be conservative on my tires and try and be fast the last few laps because, you know, the last few laps is what counts. I got a run on him and, to be honest, a lot of the time when I was behind him, I really struggled to stay with him. Similar to what Jaime is saying about, you know, just taking the air away from a car and really having to lift and get out of it, it takes a couple laps to get going again. So it was pretty difficult, and I was having to change my line a lot.
And, yeah, like, I mean, hopefully the crowd enjoyed it. I enjoyed it on the last lap through (Turn) 1 and 2. I mean, down the back straight it all started turning to dislike as I see him getting a run on me. So, yeah, again, just not going over what Jaime says, but we're here to win. I'll take second, and I'm leading the championship, which is great, but it's killing me not winning a race.
Q: Jay, if you had it to do over again and you were coming up on him behind him in the 38th lap, would you have waited one more lap? Do you think you had a single run in you?
HOWARD: That was it. That was my only chance, and I mean Wade got out of shape, I put pressure on him and he got out of shape, and he did everything I wanted him to do and I did everything I possibly could. We just didn't have a fast enough car. I think his gears were different to us because we were really struggling, you know. When I was in the draft, it wasn't too bad, but as soon as it got the wind head-on, it wasn't so hot. So, no, I wouldn't have changed anything I did, just maybe hope Wade didn't get as good a run on me.
MODERATOR: Other questions? Gentlemen, congratulations on a great race. Thank you for coming in.
CAMARA: Next race I'm going to do that thing he did on his hair. I think it's more aerodynamic for the car; it's 2 miles quicker.
MODERATOR: All it takes. (Laughter)
MODERATOR: Well, we've had some thrilling finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and those last two laps certainly count for some of the best. Before I forget it, also it should be noted that Geoff Dodge, who had to start at the rear of the field because of an engine change, made a great charge from the back himself and picked up a variety of spots. It was a great day for Brian Stewart Racing and a great day for the defending series champion, Wade Cunningham.
Wade, your second career victory and this is obviously the biggest of them all. Congratulations.
WADE CUNNINGHAM: Thanks a lot. It was a tough day. Even though we led all 40 laps, it wasn't that easy. The first 20 went really smooth, and we had everything covered. But I don't know, with 15 laps to go, I developed a pretty bad gearbox problem in fifth gear, which is the gear I needed to run in. So I had to shift to sixth and run around in a gear, which wasn't suitable for a few laps, and that really allowed Jay to catch back up and make a race of it. I didn't know if I had him covered because I didn't know if fifth gear was going to last those last few laps. But the team told me to keep my foot down, and I did and everything held out, so I'm super happy for that.
MODERATOR: Boss, were you aware of the situation that Wade was dealing with there? If so, did you think all was lost at that point?
BRIAN STEWART: I was holding my breath for the last three laps. I was almost passing out from not breathing. You know, this is my 41st year of racing cars, and I've been winning for all 41 years, and this is for me the biggest win. You know, I've waited my whole life for this moment. So that's all that I can say. I didn't know what was going on in the car. I was just so nervous, pacing up and down and that.
MODERATOR: It's funny, because you know, for both of you what this means is we go back historically and look at people who have won at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, your name is there. Talk about -- and you can see it in your eyes. It's a big deal, isn't it?
CUNNINGHAM: It is, and hopefully we can use this as a springboard, and next year I would really like to come back and be competing for the big one, the "500." That's the whole goal of the series. So I've got my fingers crossed, and we'll be pushing hard for the rest of the year, as well.
MODERATOR: When we were coming down, it was pointed out that in a couple of the early races we had a lot of wall contact, attrition. We've watched this series grow and today it was a tremendous automobile race. Obviously two guys got out front, but there was great battles throughout the field. Says a lot about the series, I think, don't you?
STEWART: I think it's a great series. As a team we were in Indy Lights for 15 years, and then Roger Bailey came over here and convinced me to come over, you know, and do the Pro Series. I just see it growing and growing. You know, it's always -- people are phoning about it now. Like the first couple of years, nobody would phone you, and you weren't sure if it was the place to be. But now the phone rings off the wall with, you know, young drivers that want to go on and, you know, our whole goal as a team is for the driver to move on. If I keep a driver for, let's say, more than two years, then I haven't done my job. My job is to make them win and then they move up to the big leagues.
MODERATOR: Very good. Questions for our winning driver and owner.
Q: Talk about your feelings when you did get passed briefly there by the other -- the second car.
CUNNINGHAM: I knew I had the fastest car pretty much from the opening lap. When I got passed, really he got a good run on the draft. I think he got lucky. So the minute I was behind, you could see when he was behind me, he would come up and then he would drop back off, and the minute he got past me, I stuck right on him. The minute I caught up and I passed him straight away. So I knew I was a lot stronger, I didn't want to make a race -- I didn't want I didn't want to have to pass all the time. I wanted to be able to pick my line; I wanted to be able to drive my own race. The minute he got by me, I just wanted to get back to the front. I think that definitely helped. If I had to change gears a lot more or make sudden changes, you know, I don't think the car would have finished because we were struggling for those last few laps.
Q: Congratulations, Wade. Last year you were chasing Camara, of course, and it was your rookie year. Apart from experience in this country, what else made you win today?
CUNNINGHAM: Really, Brian and I and the team, I think we've all grown together. In our last year we got our first pole together, the first win and the first series championship. We keep developing, and everyone on the team has a good relationship, and that's important. You saw it worked for Andretti Green for a couple of years. That's about where we're at now. Last year it was all about learning the car, learning the tracks, learning the team. Now it's about pushing everything. We've developed a very good package, and we're just fast.
Q: The saying here is usually you can't pass in (Turn) 3.
CUNNINGHAM: I found all month, since the Open Test and yesterday, the outside of 3 does have a bit of outside groove than Turn 1. Doc asked me right before the race where I thought good passing was, and that's what I said. I don't know if he said it over the broadcast.
Q: Who asked you?
CUNNINGHAM: Doc. He asked where can you pass? I said on the inside of 1 or out side of 3 because the track is very good there. Something about the entry to the corner. One is a little bit sharper. So, you know, I wasn't sure whether it was going to stick, but it was worth the risk.
Q: Brian, were you okay with that pass in (Turn) 3? You weren't worried, were you?
STEWART: I was holding my breath for the last three laps. It was incredible.
Q: The pass in (Turn) 3, did that bother you?
STEWART: I thought he could pull it off, you know. But it is dicey. (Laughter). But, you know, I mean for me as a team owner, you know, when you run three cars, Wade did well, Geoff Dodge went from 19th to eighth; Brett Van Blankers is a raw rookie, and he finished. All three cars were running at the end and in reasonably good positions. So -- well, first and eighth. I'm pretty happy.
MODERATOR: Other questions?
Q: Wade, can you talk about the health issues you had last month, and did you expect to return to this high of a level this quickly?
CUNNINGHAM: Well, it happened the Tuesday after Homestead, we were testing at Sebring, and I wasn't feeling well. But I put it off for a day. I thought maybe it was cramps or something, so I just manned up and took a concrete pill for a day. It was Thursday morning when I woke up, I keeled over in pain. I had to go do an IRL media lunch, and I did that obligingly, and I did that and I went straight to hospital. So they removed it that day. I was at the track walking around the next day.
But getting back to recovery was hard. It was three weeks after no training. Then it was only a week of light, very light machine exercises. I had to isolate everything away from my core where they had done the laparoscopic surgery. Then really it was another two weeks after that to get back to where I was before. So it was nearly a month of training to get back to where I was at Homestead. But luckily we had enough time, and we had the open test here and we did a private test in between. So I knew I was back to full health, and we were just looking forward to this race.
MODERATOR: Other questions? Seeing none, we'll leave it with congratulations to the winning driver and team. Wheldon. (Applause)